In Luke 2:49, after he had gone missing, Jesus asks his parents, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” At the age of twelve, Jesus already understood the nature of being sent into the world by his Father for the sake of the mission of God. It is this mission that drove every moment of Jesus’s life, and this same mission should drive every moment of the Christian’s life. You and I are called to honor God by our lives, loves, and longings on this earth. Therefore, understanding our calling and our being sent by God is pivotal to how we live for the sake of our King. In John 20:21, Jesus says, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” This Jesus, who has all authority and dominion, has sent his church into the world on mission. However, it is also this sending that challenges and enables us to grow in our Christlikeness. As we live under the banner of the sent Jesus, we will grow in our conformity to him.
We have a mission from God. On a mountain in Galilee, Jesus gave marching orders to the church: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19). This is the nature of our sending. In another place, Jesus explained to the disciples, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves (Matt. 10:16).” As we think through each of these sending passages, we see the clear intention behind the plan of Jesus. He desires that the nations would be evangelized and that obedient disciples would be made. These two things most certainly take wisdom and boldness. However, one aspect of this that isn’t explicit, but that must be deduced is that to be a participant in this mission, you must first be obedient to the goal of the mission. Plainly, to make obedient disciples, you must be an obedient disciple. The nature of our “being sent” carries with it the implied obedience to which Christ calls all his followers. Our mission demands our obedience. And obedience to Christ also entails conformity to Christ, a conformity that shapes our daily living.
“The sending of the church by Jesus is a call to holiness.”—Justin Honaker
Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The will of God is that we be transformed by the renewal of our mind rather than being conformed to a degraded mind. Each day, each hour, is a step in one direction or the other. Either we are growing in holiness, or we are drifting into apathy and compromise. Each day is an opportunity to bring our affections, our hopes, and our desires into alignment with what Jesus has called us to and what he purposed us for. We are, according to 2 Corinthians 3:18, on a pathway from one degree of glory to the next, being transformed into the image of Jesus. This means that we are on a daily movement away from the fruits of the flesh and toward growth in the fruit of the Spirit. We are laying aside every weight and sin that entangles us, striving toward Christ. The sending of the church by Jesus is a call to holiness. As his people, we are putting off the old nature and putting on the new, however imperfectly we may be doing it. Conformity to Christ is our end, and the sending of Christ is the means by which we reach this glorious end.
The end of our journey will see us completely conformed to the image of Christ. First John 3:2 says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” This means that our ultimate end is complete sanctification. This means that our “being sent” by Jesus is the promise of being completely sanctified by Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. This grants us hope in our fight against sin, knowing the end of the story. In this struggle, we will endure. Our fight against sin seems unending, but the truth of our final glorification convinces us otherwise. The apostle John also tells us that there is a day when pain, sorrow, tears, and brokenness will give way to glory, perfection, and wholeness (Rev. 21). Therefore, we fight on the foundation of an assured victory and present hope. Our sanctification will happen in God’s perfect time.